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Lecture series spurs new book on economics of disasters

June 2, 2010

KALAMAZOO--A recent lecture series at Western Michigan University examining the economics of disasters has been compiled in a new book released by the W.E. Upjohn Institute.

"The Economics of Natural and Unnatural Disasters" was edited by Dr. William Kern, chair of the WMU Department of Economics, from lectures delivered during the 2008-09 Werner Sichel Lecture Series.

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"The Economics of Natural and Unnatural Disasters"

Only recently have economists considered natural and unnatural disasters as economic phenomena to be formally analyzed, says Kern. Given the magnitude of many recent, high-profile disasters, their impact on local, regional and national economies and the coverage of their consequences in the popular press, he says, it is surprising that the attention of economists was for so long largely diverted from analysis of these events.

"The Economics of Natural and Unnatural Disasters" helps bring the issues involved to light. The book presents a noted group of contributors, who stand at the forefront of this increasingly important subdiscipline of economics--the economics of disasters. The chapters they contribute cover a wide variety of events and delve into the human and economic impacts disasters impose on nations around the world.

Several themes dominant in this literature are discussed. Those include the ability of potential disaster victims to accurately assess the risks they face, the role of incentives in ensuring that mitigation efforts are undertaken, the adequacy of our evaluation of the impact of disasters on economies and discussion of the effectiveness of current government policies toward disaster prevention and relief. These will in all likelihood continue to be topics of discussion in the future.

The Sichel Series is organized by the WMU Department of Economics and named in honor of longtime WMU economics professor, Dr. Werner Sichel, who retired in 2004. The series is cosponsored by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

For more information, or to order a copy of the book, visit www.upjohninst.org/publications/titles/enud.html.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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